Dogs love chicken. There’s a reason that the birds are the most common ingredient in commercial dog foods, as they’re delicious and full of important amino acids. You may wonder, though, whether it’s safe for your dog to eat chicken before it’s been cooked.
The answer is — maybe. This is a source of some dispute among many experts, as some say that it’s perfectly fine, while others warn of salmonella dangers. The most accurate answer seems to be that regardless of raw chicken’s safety, cooking the meat is clearly the better option.
If you’d like to learn more about the arguments behind this raging debate, the guide below walks you through everything that you need to know.
Is Raw Chicken Safe for Dogs?
The raw chicken advocates say, “Of course raw chicken is safe for dogs! That’s how they’d eat chicken if they were in the wild!”
While this is true, it also skirts the issue. After all, wild dogs do all sorts of things that aren’t in the best interests of their health.
The fact of the matter is that feeding your dog raw chicken increases the risk that they’ll get salmonella poisoning, a potentially fatal bacterial infection caused by microbes in uncooked chicken.
However, salmonella poisoning is fairly rare in dogs and cats. It’s you who should be worried about it, as many dogs can spread the germs to their humans without ever showing symptoms themselves.
Although the risk may be minuscule, it’s almost nonexistent if you cook the chicken properly, so there’s little reason to take the chance.
Why Aren’t Dogs Susceptible to Salmonella Poisoning?
First, dogs can suffer from salmonella poisoning and even die from it. It’s just much less common than it is in humans.
Part of the reason is that dogs have a much shorter digestive tract than we do. This allows them to push the food through their system much more quickly, and it gives the bacteria less time to grab a foothold in their intestines.
Dogs have also evolved to eat raw meat, while we’ve moved away from it. Their immune systems are better able to fight off food-borne infections, and their bodies need more of the nutrients that are found in internal organs and bones than ours do.
That said, don’t just assume that your dog will be fine. Be on the lookout for the symptoms of salmonella infection, which include:
- Diarrhea that’s full of blood or mucus
- Decreased appetite
- Excessive salivation
Are There Any Benefits to Feeding Your Dog Raw Chicken?
It depends on what you compare it to. If you’re comparing it to processed, pre-cooked chicken that’s often sold in canned foods, then yes, there are a few benefits to feeding your dog raw chicken.
Raw chicken is almost nothing but pure protein. There aren’t any added carbs, chemicals, or preservatives, so your dog gets unadulterated nutrition. But they can still get that nutrition if you cook the chicken before serving.
However, there’s one area in which raw chicken has the edge: the bones. Cooked chicken bones are extremely dangerous for dogs, as the cooking process makes them brittle and prone to splintering. They can then get stuck in your dog’s digestive tract, potentially piercing delicate organs along the way.
Raw bones, on the other hand, are full of important nutrients and are much less likely to splinter. The nutritional benefit of feeding your dog raw chicken bones may be outweighed by the salmonella risk, but that’s a decision that you’ll have to make for yourself.
How Should I Serve My Dog Raw Chicken?
Many raw food advocates regularly use raw chicken in their recipes. They can cut up chicken breasts into cubes and toss it into a bowl with veggies, or they may toss their dog a chicken neck or even an entire leg quarter.
You can also dehydrate the chicken and serve it as a jerky treat. This often kills bacteria as well, making it one of the safer ways to serve raw meat to your pooch.
It’s important to recognize that while chicken may serve as the backbone of your dog’s raw diet, it’s insufficient on its own. Your pup will need nutrients from other sources as well, and you should consult your vet if you’re unsure how to provide those.
Also, be mindful of how you handle the raw chicken. Remember, you’re far more susceptible to salmonella poisoning than your dog is, so wash your hands after handling the chicken, and be sure to thoroughly clean all counter spaces that the chicken touches.
Are There Any Dogs That Shouldn’t Eat Raw Chicken?
Yes. If your dog has a compromised immune system, they may be more susceptible to salmonella infection. As a result, you should never serve them raw chicken.
Many older dogs fall into this category, so be careful about switching your senior pup to a raw diet. You’re likely better off keeping them on a diet that they’re familiar with, unless you have a clear medical reason for making the change.
What’s the Verdict? Can Dogs Eat Raw Chicken?
There are strong arguments to be made on both sides of the raw chicken debate, so ultimately, it will be up to you to decide whether it’s worth the risk. Your dog will certainly love it, and they’ll get a few important nutrients out of it, but it’s at the risk of contracting a serious bacterial infection.
There may not be a “right” answer to this question, but it’s worth noting that cooked chicken has most of the benefits of the raw stuff without any of the downsides.
The good news is that your dog won’t care either way. They’ll just be happy they got chicken, regardless of what form it takes.